BOWDOINHAM — Bowdoinham resident Howard Solomon felt compelled to speak to his community about anti-Semitism after an October shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 people dead.

A student of history, Solomon has taught at New York University and Tufts University for more than 33 years. He will host a discussion titled “In the Shadows of Pittsburgh: Anti-Semitism in American Life” at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Bowdoinham Public Library.

On Oct. 27, Robert Gregory Bowers allegedly entered the Tree of Life synagogue during morning Shabbat services and opened fire, killing 11 and wounding seven, in what is believed to be the deadliest attack on Jews in the U.S. Bowers surrendered to police but reportedly raged against Jews during and after the shooting. He faces numerous murder and hate crime charges.

“I grew up just outside of Pittsburgh. I went to the University of Pittsburgh,” said Solomon. “There was something about getting that news. It struck me in a way I didn’t anticipate.”

Solomon, who is Jewish, spent his career teaching courses about groups of people he says were pushed to the margins of historical memory. He’s also worked as an advocate those currently marginalized.

He’s received honors for his work for the LGBT community, and the Equality Maine Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. Solomon’s final stop in higher education was as a scholar in residence at the University of Southern Maine’s Sampson Center for Diversity.

In 2009, he discovered a passion for art, particularly assemblage and collage, becoming the president of the Merrymeeting Arts Center.

“I tell people I’m a recovering historian,” Solomon said. “I thought I need to share with people why anti-Semitism is on the rise. It’s years of rhetoric, for one, and the structure of that is hard to get out of.”

According to FBI data, crimes targeting the Jewish community or individuals rose 37 percent nationwide from 2016 to 2017. Hate crimes also spiked 17 percent nationally.

“It’s hard to differentiate between any of the ‘isms.’ If we look closely, we see they are all intertwined,” Solomon said. “When we look at them carefully and understand what has continued the rhetoric, we can take them apart.”

Breaking down harmful stereotypes is a part of the solution, according to Solomon, but there’s more that can be done to bring change. He’s encouraged by what he sees in young people.

“It’s with our young people that’s where the discussion is going to be done,” he said. “Kids are naturally much more understanding.”

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